It was a triumphant night for young composers at the 2010 British Composer Awards, held at the end of November in London.
In an evening of prize-giving traditionally dominated by a relatively limited handful of names, half of the 14 categories were won by composers under 35 including 33-year-old Ryan Wigglesworth with his ambitious song cycle for soprano and orchestra, Augenlieder, and James Hamilton (26) with his thrilling work for jazz big band, The Causeway Suite.
But it was 30-year-old Cheryl Frances-Hoad who stole the show, winning both the Liturgical and Instrumental Solo awards. ‘I didn’t expect to win at all,’ Frances-Hoad admitted to us after the awards. ‘I know several composers who are a generation or two older than me and they’ve had problems getting their pieces performed. But I’ve never had any trouble – I think being a girl is a bit of a novelty in this world and that it’s done me a favour.’
Her victories also helped give the evening its second good news story, with a total of six awards for female composers including the Choral award for 26-year-old Sasha Siem’s choral setting of Psalm 140 and the brand new Making Music Award for 32-year-old Kerry Andrews’s choral work Fall.
The winner of arguably the evening’s most important award, the Orchestral prize, was won by Brian Elias for his work Doubles. Speaking to BBC Music after the event, he said, ‘Composers get a lot more recognition these days thanks to events like these – and of course, the BBC has been very important over the last 60 years or so. And right from my early student days, I was lucky – there was qite a lot of funding from the Arts Council for young composers to have their work played, but it’s not like that now – it’s a bit of a desert for a lot of people to get into mainsream performances at, say, Wigmore Hall.’
The British Composer Awards, which will be broadcast on Radio 3 tonight and available for seven days on the BBC iPlayer, were introduced by Radio 3’s Andrew McGregor and Sara Mohr-Pietsch. The awards themselves were presented to the winners by Jude Kelly, artistic director of the Southbank Centre.
The full list of winners:
Chamber: Raymond Yui – Northwest Wind
Community or Educational Project: Karen MacIver – A Head of Steam
Vocal: Ryan Wigglesworth – Augenlieder
Contemporary Jazz Composition: James Hamilton – The Causeway Suite
Instrumental Solo or Duo: Cheryl Frances-Hoad – Stolen Rhythm from Homage to Haydn
Sonic Art: John Wynne – Installation for 300 speakers, pianola and vacuum cleaner
Choral: Sasha Siem – Psalm 140: Deliver me, O Lord
International Award: Unsuk Chin – Concerto for Cello and Orchestra
Stage Works: Rory Boyle – Kaspar Hauser
Liturgical: Cheryl Frances-Hoad – Psalm 1: Blessed is the Man
Wind Band or Brass Band: Philip Grange – Cloud Atlas
Making Music Award: Kerry Andrew – Fall
Orchestral: Brian Elias – Doubles